Nov 11, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT
They’ve hired a new manager, begun putting together a new coaching staff and made decisions regarding several new free agents. So now the Nationals, like all MLB clubs, are transitioning into full-blown Hot Stove League mode, the focus now on 2016 roster alterations.
Some clubs will undergo massive roster renovations. Others will make only a few tweaks here and there. The Nationals? They’re probably somewhere in the middle. Obviously, they’ve got several big-name free agents moving elsewhere. And they’ve got several other current players who could or could not figure into next year’s plans.
A full-on roster makeover doesn’t appear to be in the works, not with a considerable amount of talent still in place to make a serious run in 2016. But there is plenty general manager Mike Rizzo could do if he wants to do it.
As always, though, there is a key underlying factor to it all: Money. How much do the Nationals have to spend this winter?
The answer: A pretty decent amount, maybe as much as $30 million if they’re willing to match this year’s payroll.
The Nationals’ official 2015 payroll clocked in at $165,480,095, which ranked fifth in the majors, according to Spotrac. Now, that doesn’t mean the Nats actually paid out $165 million in salaries. Remember, players are paid based on how much time they spend on the big-league roster. (A rookie who spent part of the season in the minors, for example, only made a prorated fraction of of the league’s $515,000 minimum salary.) And there are bonuses and other assorted fillers that count toward payroll (for luxury tax purposes) but aren’t actually paid out. (Max Scherzer’s official salary is $22,142,857, but the Nats are only paying him $15 million a year, with money deferred until next decade.)
The actual cash the Nationals paid out to players this season was $124,077,067, which ranked 11th in the majors, according to Spotrac. But for these purposes, we’re going to use the payroll figure, because those are the numbers that overwhelmingly show up in public.
So, how much have the Nationals already committed to next year’s payroll? Below is a list of 2016 salaries for a full, projected roster (25 healthy players plus anyone who will start the season on the DL). It also includes dead money being paid to two players whose contracts were bought out (Casey Janssen and Nate McLouth). Players who are still arbitration-eligible or have fewer than three years of big-league service time don’t have set salaries yet, so the figures below are estimates, using MLB Trade Rumors’ arbitration calculator.
Keep in mind this won’t be the Nationals’ actual 25-man roster come Opening Day. It’s simply a look at who the 25 guys would probably be if the season began today. Which, of course, it doesn’t…
|SP Max Scherzer||$22,142,857|
|OF Jayson Werth||$21,571,429|
|1B Ryan Zimmerman||$14,000,000|
|SP Gio Gonzalez||$12,100,000|
|RP Jonathan Papelbon||$11,000,000|
|SP Stephen Strasburg||$10,500,000*|
|RP Drew Storen||$8,800,000*|
|IF Yunel Escobar||$7,000,000|
|C Wilson Ramos||$5,300,000*|
|OF Bryce Harper||$5,000,000|
|IF Danny Espinosa||$2,700,000*|
|IF Anthony Rendon||$2,500,000*|
|RP Craig Stammen||$2,400,000*|
|RP David Carpenter||$1,500,000*|
|C Jose Lobaton||$1,500,000*|
|OF Tyler Moore||$1,000,000*|
|SP Tanner Roark||$550,000*|
|RP Aaron Barrett||$540,000*^|
|1B Clint Robinson||$535,000*|
|OF Matt den Dekker||$525,000*|
|RP Blake Treinen||$525,000*|
|OF Michael Taylor||$525,000*|
|SP Joe Ross||$520,000*|
|RP Felipe Rivero||$520,000*|
|RP Matt Grace||$520,000*|
|IF Trea Turner||$515,000*|
|RP Casey Janssen||$1,500,000#|
|OF Nate McLouth||$750,000#|
*-Estimated 2016 salary
^-Will open 2016 season on DL
#-Dead money from contract buyouts
So, that’s $136,539,286 committed to 2016 payroll at the moment. Which means there’s roughly $30 million to spend if the Nationals are willing to match this year’s payroll. There are, however, some other places where they could create more money to spend.
This assumes no players are traded, which is probably an assumption we shouldn’t make. The Nationals have several options in this regard, whether in the form of Drew Storen, Jonathan Papelbon or Yunel Escobar. They also could field offers for Stephen Strasburg, though keep in mind that as was the case last winter with Jordan Zimmermann, they would want a boatload in return for the right-hander (who will be a free agent 12 months from now).
There are a few candidates who could be non-tendered, most notably David Carpenter and Tyler Moore. Either or both of those moves would clear up some money.
Point is, the Nationals should have the financial wherewithal to make significant moves this winter. Maybe they won’t invest $20 million a year in another superstar free agent. But they have the ability to add several prominent veterans to the mix, whether via free agency or trade.
FINAL NL EAST STANDINGS
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As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...
MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
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